Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Chicken

Number 2 made of food

Buying grocery items in bulk may seem like a way to save money, but mushy salad greens in the refrigerator vegetable drawer mean wasted dollars.

Here are some tips for saving time and money at the supermarket when planning fast and healthy meals for two.

  • Avoid waste,;use the salad bar. A full container of cherry tomatoes or a whole bag of shredded cabbage may be an impractical purchase, so select just what you need or like at the salad bar.
  • Six-ounce bags of greens, such as spinach, arugula or mixed salad greens, are perfect for serving two.
  • The 6- or 7-ounce cans and pouches of tuna, salmon, sardines and crab are the right size.
  • If you need shrimp, buy peeled frozen tail-on shrimp in 2-pound bags. Since the shrimp do not stick together in the bag, you can take out what you need when you need it, without having to defrost the whole amount..
  • If your local supermarket only sells prepackaged meats and you have a small freezer, ask the meat department to give you just the amount you need.
  • One 14-ounce can of chicken or beef broth works well when making soup for two. When you only need a small amount of broth for a recipe, use a low-sodium bouillon mix. Cooking rice in leftover broth gives it great flavor.
  • 8-ounce cans of  regular and no-salt-added tomato sauce are just the right size to have on hand for dinner.
  • Small drink boxes of 100% juice are convenient for making sauces and salad dressings, without a lot of extra juice left over..
  • Buy smaller servings of dairy products—pints of milk, 6 and 8 ounce containers of yogurt, 4 ounce containers of cottage cheese and 3 ounce blocks of cream cheese to avoid spoilage after these packages are opened.

So, you find a recipe that sounds good, but the yield is “four to six servings.” How do you get to amounts for two servings? Divide the ingredients by four? By six? In half or make the full amount and hope that the leftover portions are good reheated?

Instead think about what the portions are per serving for a particular ingredient.

If you’re looking at a recipe for pasta, and you know that your preference is for two ounces each, look at how much pasta the recipe calls for. Twelve ounces? Then your starting point is to divide by three for two servings. Sometimes there are two or more main ingredients to a recipe – pasta and a sauce or meat and vegetables – in which case you want to think about portion sizes for all the elements.

Sauces are particularly difficult to make in small amounts without ruining the overall flavor.  I often cut the sauce for a dish that serves 6-8 in half rather than try to reduce it further. I know that I’ll probably have more than we need, but it’s usually an easier reduction without ruining the flavor of the sauce. I can often freeze the extra or use it later in the week for another dish.

It is also helpful, if you develop a file of recipes that serve just two. I will help you out by sharing the following recipes.

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Stuffed Turkey or Pork Tenderloin

This dish goes well with mashed sweet potatoes and a green vegetable. Serve the leftover pear on the side.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup thin sweet onion wedges
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cored red skinned pear, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1 10 ounce turkey breast tenderloin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, cook onion, covered, in 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add chopped pear and thyme. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until pear is just tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, cut a large pocket in the side of the turkey or pork tenderloin by cutting horizontally into the tenderloin, but not all the way through to the opposite side. Spoon cooled onion mixture into the pocket. Secure opening with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle top of tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Carefully wipe out the skillet. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet; heat over medium heat. Add stuffed tenderloin, top side down, to hot skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned. Turn tenderloin.

Roast, uncovered, in the oven about 20 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice to serve.

fortwo2

Cioppino For Two

Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 small red potatoes, (1 to 2-inch diameter), quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small firm white fish fillet, diced (about 6-8 ounces) such as grouper, cod, halibut or snapper
  • 2 large sea scallops, cut in half and patted dry
  • 4 peeled medium shrimp
  • 6  mussels or small clams
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup seafood stock or water
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add fish filet and scallops; cook, stirring once or twice, until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion to the pan and stir to coat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, add Italian seasoning, paprika to taste, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add wine, stock or water and tomatoes; bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the fish, scallops, shrimp and mussels or clams, potatoes and capers, return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

fortwo3

Fusilli with Sausage, Arugula and Tomatoes

To make this dish vegetarian, leave out the sausage and add one 8-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Heat with the arugula and tomatoes.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces fusilli  pasta
  • 4 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups arugula or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup halved grape or cherry  tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.

Stir in garlic, arugula or spinach and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt and the tomatoes begin to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and keep warm.

Combine cheese, pepper and salt in a serving bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and the olive oil.

Drain the pasta and add it to the serving bowl. Toss to combine. Pour the sausage-arugula mixture over the pasta and divide into two serving bowls.

fortwo4

Chicken with Prosciutto and Tomato Sauce Over Polenta

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 very thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage sprigs

Directions

Sprinkle the chicken with the sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes on each side. Add wine; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°.

Place the cornmeal and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1-quart casserole. Gradually add water or broth, stirring until blended. Cover dish and microwave at high 12 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Remove chicken from the skillet. Add tomatoes to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and prosciutto.

Spoon polenta onto two plates, top with chicken and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, if desired.

fortwo5

Sirloin Tips with Bell Peppers

Serve with egg noodles tossed with parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces sirloin steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice mill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 bell peppers (one yellow; one red), cut into strips
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions

Rub steak with fennel seed and 1/4 teaspoon salt, turning to coat on all sides.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the steak in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned on the outside and still pink in the middle, about 2-3  minutes.

Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add bell peppers, oregano, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the peppers are tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup broth and flour in a small bowl. Add to the pepper mixture, increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.

Return the steak to the pan. Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, turning the meat once, about 2 minutes to heat. Serve over cooked noodles, if desired.


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As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide. No one has contributed more foods to the American dinner table than the Italian immigrants. Strong Italian-American enclaves in New York City, Boston’s North End, Providence’s Federal Hill and South Philly have helped shape a new American hybrid cuisine. Based on Old World traditions, Italian-American cuisine is marked by an appreciation for the New World’s abundance.

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Boston’s Pan Pizza

Boston’s Italian neighborhood is called the North End. It has a strong Italian flair and numerous Italian restaurants. The North End is also Boston’s oldest neighborhood and it still possesses an old-world charm kept alive by its mostly Italian-American population. The neighborhood also is a major attraction for tourists and Bostonians alike, who come seeking the best in Italian cuisine and to enjoy the Italian feel of the region. Hanover and Salem Streets, the two main streets of this bustling historic neighborhood, are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, selling a variety of incredible foods. A trip to Boston would not be complete without including a meal at one of North End’s over one hundred fine Italian restaurants.

Ingredients

You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet, preferably non-stick, about 11 1/2-by-17 or a 16-inch pizza pan and a plastic dough scraper.

DOUGH

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water, or more if necessary
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Olive oil (for the pans)
  • Extra flour (for sprinkling)
  • Extra salt (for sprinkling)

Directions

In a bowl, sprinkle yeast into water; set aside for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Stir to blend.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture. Add enough additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make a dough that holds together, but is sticky and too moist to knead.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so the wrap does not touch the dough. Lay a dish towel on top. Set aside for 2 hours.

Rub a large rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil. Rub the center of 1 long sheet of foil with oil and set it aside.

Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Use a dough scraper to transfer the dough to the baking sheet or pizza pan. Pat the dough with a little flour to within 2 inches of the edge of the pans.

Cover with foil, oiled side down. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or as long as overnight).

Remove pan from the refrigerator. Dip your hand in flour and pat the dough with your hand, adding as little flour as necessary, until it reaches the edges of the sheets.

Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

TOPPINGS

  • 12 slices provolone cheese or 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced, or 4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices good-quality ham, cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Arrange racks on the lowest and center parts of the oven. Set the oven at 500 degrees.

If using provolone, arrange it on the dough, spacing out the slices. Add the cherry or plum tomatoes, spacing them out. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Sprinkle with ham, if using, then Parmesan.

Bake the pizza on the lowest rack of the oven for about 10 minutes (check after 8 minutes to make sure edges are not burning).

Transfer the pizza to the center rack and continue baking for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, the dough is golden and crisp at the edges, and the bottom is firm.

With a wide metal spatula, lift the pizza from the pan and transfer to large wooden board. Cut into rectangles, wedges, or strips.

northeast8

Federal Hill’s Zuppa Di Polpette (Meatball Soup)

Federal Hill is the Italian neighborhood of Providence with many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, art galleries, cigar shops and markets. DePasquale Square is the center of the neighborhood. Historic Federal Hill is the “Heartbeat of Providence” and begins at Atwells Avenue, the street that flows under the arch. The gateway arch over Atwells with the La Pigna (pinecone) sculpture hanging from its center is a traditional Italian symbol of abundance and quality and the symbol of Federal Hill. It is a place dedicated to the Italian immigrants who gathered here as a community and is still a place of charm, warmth and hospitality to all. Numerous Italian restaurants and businesses line the main thoroughfare and its surrounding area. Garibaldi Square, with a bust of the “Hero of Two Worlds”, and DePasquale Plaza, with outdoor dining and two bocce courts, all contribute to the Italian atmosphere.

Ingredients

In a large 8 quart stock pot prepare the following:

  • 1 small chicken broken up in pieces
  • 1 large onion cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 medium ripe tomato cut in half
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Pinch of turmeric, for a little color

Directions

Add enough water to cover 4-5 inches above the ingredients and cook for about one and one half hours. Remove the chicken and vegetables separately and cool.

Puree the vegetables through a food mill or processor and add back to the stock.

Cool the chicken and use it for chicken salad. If you like you can add some of the chicken cut into pieces back into the soup.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup Romano cheese
  • 1 large egg

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Scoop out by tablespoons and form into small meatballs. Add them to the soup and simmer them for about 30 minutes.

To serve:

  • 2 tablespoons uncooked soup (small) pasta, per person, optional
  • Lots of freshly grated Romano cheese

Cook the pasta and distribute it between the bowls. Ladle in the soup and meatballs and serve with the cheese.

Serves 6-8

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Capellini Alla Positano from Philadelphia’s Bellini Grill

Philadelphia’s Italian American community is the second-largest in the United States. Named after its view of the Center City skyline, Bella Vista, Italian for “Beautiful View,” is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and authentic Italian neighborhoods. Bella Vista is home to many Italian-American treasures, such as the city’s first Italian American bathhouse, the Fante-Leone Pool, built in 1905 and the Philadelphia Ninth Street Italian Market, claimed to be the oldest open-air market still in operation in the country. More than 100 years old, the Italian Market was originally a business association of local vendors who banded together to compete with larger stores that were moving into the area. Today, the market houses an assortment of shops, bakeries and restaurants.

Makes  4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 5 oz uncooked Angel Hair Pasta
  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chopped Fresh Chili
  • 3 Garlic Cloves; minced
  • 2 tablespoons Shallots; chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Fish Broth
  • 2 ups Dry White Wine
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 8 oz Lump Crab Meat
  • 1 bunch Fresh Basil; chopped
  • 2 cups Grape Tomatoes

Marinara Sauce

  • 24 oz Canned Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove; minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Pinch Sea Salt
  • Pinch White Pepper

Directions

For the marinara sauce: sauté chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add tomato sauce and remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally.

For the pasta: Cook pasta according to directions on package.

Sauté shallots, chili and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Add fish stock and white wine, cook until slightly reduced. Add marinara sauce, stirring until combined.

Gently fold in lump crab meat, fresh basil and tomatoes – cook for 5 minutes. Serve sauce over cooked pasta.

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Bakeries in New York’s Little Italy

Most of the Italian immigrants who made their home in America first landed in New York City. Many then traveled to other parts of the country; but by the early 1900’s, hundreds of thousands had settled in lower Manhattan, living in row houses and tenements in an area of about one square mile. For the unskilled, it was a hard life of cleaning city streets and ash barrels and, for the skilled, it was a hard life of working their trade in constructing buildings and roads. Others became fruit peddlers, bread bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Some opened grocery stores and restaurants or worked in factories. Most of the people who lived on Mulberry came from Naples; those from Elizabeth Street were from Sicily; Mott Street from Calabria; and most of the people north of Mott, came from Bari.

Sweets would have been a rare indulgence for most in the Old Country, however, in America they were a frequent treat. One of the earliest New York ice cream parlors to open, in the 1820s, was Palmo’s Garden, whose immigrant owner, Ferdinand Palmo, fitted it out with gilded columns, huge mirrors and an Italian band. In 1892, opera impresario Antonio Ferrara opened a confections parlor under his name on Grand Street, where he could entertain his musician friends. Veniero’s on East 11th Street began as a billiard parlor in 1894 that sold candy and coffee, eventually, evolving into an enormously successful pastry shop that created the cake for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration.

Arguably the most famous bakery and cafe in Little Italy is Ferrara, the two-floor dessert mecca with flashing lights and an outdoor summer-season gelato stand. Constantly packed with tourists and locals (on a recent Friday at 11 a.m., the takeout line was out the door), Ferrara has some of the most delicious cannoli this side of the Atlantic. Open since 1892, the cafe serves the dessert with a side of dark chocolate pieces and mixes small chocolate chips into the sweet ricotta-based filling.

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Ferrara’s Bakery Tiramisu

Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara, opera impresario and showman, opened the cafe in New York City called Caffé A. Ferrara. Enrico Caruso, the great opera singer, thought the coffee marvelous but loved the cookies and cakes.

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 box (7 oz.) Savoiardi or Lady Fingers
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup strong warm coffee
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur

Directions

Arrange Savoiardi in rectangular serving dish, (approximately 11″ x 13″).

Lightly soak Savoiardi with a mixture of coffee and coffee liqueur.

While gradually adding sugar, beat egg yolks (approximately 5-10 minutes) until very stiff and egg yolks appear pale in color.

Beat heavy cream until very stiff and fold into egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk or electric beater until very stiff and gently fold egg whites into the cream mixture. Add vanilla and fold gently.

Cover Savoiardi with this cream mixture. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Sprinkle with cocoa or chocolate flakes before serving.

Tiramisu may be frozen and should be defrosted in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

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Di Palo’s Ricotta Cheesecake

Di Palo’s in New York’s Little Italy is the iconic Italian deli, the stuff of dreams for anybody who cooks Italian. Lou Di Palo, whose family has owned the store for 104 years, is still working behind the counter. He is the great-grandson of the founder, is the fourth generation, along with his brother, Sal and his sister, Marie. When you stop in, you’ll almost always find two or more of them there, offering tastes of cheeses, slicing speck or prosciutto or dishing out orders of Eggplant Parmigiana. They make their own ricotta and mozzarella and have for decades.

Lou Di Palo shared his grandmother’s recipe for a true Italian-style cheesecake.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup crushed Zwieback cookies or graham crackers, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 pounds fresh ricotta
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons orange-blossom water
  • 3/4 cup cream

Directions

Butter a 9-inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the crushed cookies in a small bowl and evenly coat the bottom and sides of the buttered pan with the mixture.

In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar and the ricotta, eggs, vanilla, orange-blossom water and the cream. Pour into the cookie-coated pan.

Sprinkle the top with additional crushed cookies and place the springform pan on the center oven rack on a cookie sheet to catch any leaks.

Bake for 1 hour or until the center no longer jiggles; it may crack slightly. Let cool, remove from pan and serve at room temperature.

McClatchy-Tribune

Cassateddi Di Ricotta (Ricotta Turnovers)

This traditional Sicilian recipe for sweet ricotta turnovers is adapted from “The Little Italy Cookbook: Recipes from North America’s Italian Communities” (out of print) by Maria Pace and Louisa Scaini-Jojic. The authors suggest using a pasta machine to get the dough thin enough to make the pastries.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ricotta, drained, see note at the bottom
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

For the filling, combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and egg white in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine the 4 eggs, melted shortening, remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and milk in a small bowl.

Mound 3 1/2 cups flour on a board; make a well. Pour the egg mixture into the well; sprinkle on the baking powder. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the flour to form a dough; add a little more milk, if needed. Knead briefly until the dough is smooth. (Add flour, if needed.)

Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one of the pieces and flatten; dust with flour and roll until it is 1/16th-inch thick and shaped into a 4-inch-wide rectangle.

Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling along one side of the dough at 3 1/2-inch intervals. Fold the top half of the strip over the filling and press edges together to enclose completely.

Cut with a pastry cutter or knife into individual squares or half moons. Lay each piece on a lightly floured baking sheet; repeat with remaining pieces and filling.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Fry several turnovers at a time until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on a rack placed over paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Draining ricotta: Place ricotta in a wire sieve in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to remove excess water. For faster results, cover the ricotta with a small plate that fits in the sieve and weight that with a heavy can. If you can, use fresh whole milk ricotta from a specialty market for the richest flavor.


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I recently read the article, “Parmigiana Dishes to Warm Weary Souls” in the New York Times that got me to thinking about how many different kinds of Parmigiana exists in our cuisine.

Parmigiana or parmesan, also parmigiana di melanzane or melanzane alla parmigiana is an Italian dish made with a fried, sliced filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Parmigiana made with a filling of eggplant (also called aubergine) is the earliest and still unique Italian version. Other variations may include chicken, veal, or another type of meat cutlet or vegetable filling. The origin of the dish is unclear; it is claimed by both the Southern regions of Campania and Sicily and by the Northern province of Parma.

While the true meaning of the word Parmigiana is “in the style of Parma,” the term often gets confused with the cheese that we know—Parmigiano-Reggiano; however, there is no correlation. Though Eggplant Parmesan began in Italy—Northern or Southern—this dish is not commonly found in current Italian cuisine; the concept of Parmigiana, in this sense (breaded veggies or protein baked with layers of cheese and sauce), is considered more of an Italian American classic. But Eggplant Parmesan was just the beginning for the U.S. Since its first appearance “parms” have shown up on every menu, involving such ingredients as: chicken breasts, veal cutlets, zucchini and even, pork.

The dish consists of sliced ingredients, pan-fried in oil, layered with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven. In some versions, the sliced filling is first dipped in beaten eggs and dredged in flour or bread crumbs before frying. Some recipes use hard grated cheeses such as Parmigiano, while others use softer melting cheeses like mozzarella, or a combination of these.

Variations made with breaded meat cutlets, such as veal and chicken, have been popularized in other countries, usually in areas of Italian immigration. In the United States and Canada, veal parmigiana or chicken parmigiana is often served as an entrée and, sometimes, is served as a submarine sandwich. It is also popular with a side of or on top of pasta. Diced onions or green bell peppers are sometimes added. The veal dish is known in Italian as Cotolette alla Bolognese.

Veal or chicken parmigiana is a common dish in Australia and Argentina and in both countries often served with a side of chips or a salad. In Australia, it may also contain a variety of toppings, including sliced ham or fried eggplant (aubergine) slices. This dish is often referred to as a parmy or parma. In Argentina and in other neighboring South American countries, veal or chicken parmigiana is topped with ham and served with french fries. It is known as milanesa a la napolitana. If the dish is topped with a fried egg, then it is known as a súper milanesa or suprema napolitana. The origin of the dish was the Napoli restaurant in Buenos Aires during the 1940s. A similar dish, the parmo, which uses either pork or chicken, is found in England.

To make any “parm” dish well, you need a good marinara sauce. I have included the recipe in this post along with some of my family’s favorite parm dishes.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft and translucent, on medium to low heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, careful not to overcook.

Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce.

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Eggplant Parmesan

This is not a dish that can be prepared quickly, but with some of my make ahead tips, you can enjoy this entrée for dinner and have several leftovers for future use without spending all day in the kitchen. Eggplant freezes very well in all stages of its preparation. Additionally, I do not fry the eggplant, but bake it in the oven to reduce the calories.

First Stage

I usually prepare 4-1 pound eggplants at once and freeze them, individually, for future use.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) or egg whites
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker).  You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

If you are not going to assemble the eggplant dish at this time, wrap each batch of eggplant in aluminum foil with foil sheets between the layers and place it in a ziplock freezer bag.  Store in the freezer until you need it. Defrost a package overnight in the refrigerator, when you want to make the casserole.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an  8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
  • 1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package of breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the package of cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

parm1

Chicken or Veal or Fish Parmigiana

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten lightly or egg whites or egg substitute
  • 2 chicken breasts, halved or about 1 pound veal cutlets or firm white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups Homemade Marinara, recipe above
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 4-8 slices of mozzarella cheese

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour and eggs in three separate dishes. First, dredge chicken breast halves (or veal/fish cutlets) in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, making sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken or veal until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from hot oil and onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

To bake, preheat oven to 375˚F. Spread about 1 cup of Marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Arrange a layer of breaded cutlets on top of the sauce. Top with 1 cup of Marinara, covering each piece. Sprinkle with Parmigiano. Place 1 to 2 slices of mozzarella on each cutlet.

Cover dish with foil and bake, 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Uncover, then bake to fully melt cheese for another 5 minutes.

Serves 4

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Shrimp  Parmigiana

For 2 servings you will need the following:

Ingredients

  • 12 large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/3 cup Italian Style Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup homemade marinara sauce, warmed
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a baking dish that fits the portion of shrimp you are making with cooking spray.

Place the egg beaters in a shallow bowl and the Panko bread crumbs mixed with the Parmigiano cheese in another.

Wash and dry the shrimp. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Put the shrimp in the bowl with the egg beaters to coat and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Place in the baking dish.

The shrimp can be prepared ahead up to this point.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Drizzle the top of the shrimp with the olive oil and bake on the middle oven rack for 10 minutes. Turn shrimp over then cook another 5  minutes.  Pour sauce evenly over the shrimp and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and heat just until the cheese melts.

football5

Meatball Parmesan Subs

These are especially popular with children for a birthday party.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/4 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 recipe Marinara sauce, recipe above
  • 12 small hoagie buns or firm hot dog rolls, split and warmed
  • 12 slices (one ounce each) mozzarella cheese, cut in half

Directions

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Once the onion mixture has cooled, add the beef or turkey, bread crumbs, egg, salt and parsley and mix thoroughly. Using wet hands, shape tablespoons of the meatball mixture into 1 ½ inch balls and then transfer to a baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown. Turn over halfway through baking.

Add the baked meatballs to the marinara sauce and heat.

To make the sandwiches:

Spoon the hot meatballs with some sauce over the bottoms of the rolls. Place a slice of mozzarella, cut in half, over the meatballs. Spread a little more sauce over the meatballs, then fold the tops of the rolls over and serve.

The sandwiches can be assembled and wrapped individually in foil. Rewarm the sandwiches in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes before serving.

parm3

Cauliflower Parmesan

The New York Times article contained a recipe for Cauliflower Parmesan and it inspired me to create this healthy version. I made this dish over the Christmas holidays for family and they loved it.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade  marinara sauce, recipe above
  • 1 head of fresh cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat a large, deep oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the  pan and heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in sauce and cauliflower and cook until cauliflower is just tender.

Preheat the broiler

Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmigiano cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the bread crumbs and broil until the cheese melts..

 


umbriacover

In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.

In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes,  by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet.  The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.

The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.

The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.

By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.

The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.

The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.

I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.

English Translation

The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.

Perugia, the Capital

Perugia, the Capital

The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

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Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.

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The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.

The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.

umbrianporchetta

The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.

Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.

umbrianlentils

Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough.  Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves.  A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit.  Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola.  This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.

Regional Cuisine

umbriatrufflefestival

Truffle Festival

Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)

umbriafarro

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
  • 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
  • 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, bring  chicken stock to a boil.

Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.

Drain and let cool until no more than warm.

Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.

Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.

White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )

umbria2

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
  • 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.

Umbrian Mixed  Grill

umbria6

This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 pound boneless beef loin
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef  with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.

Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

umbria3

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 firm-ripe large apricots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling

Directions

Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.

Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.

Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.

Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 


souppizzatureen

souppizzapan

Mix and match the recipes below according to your taste. These meals can easily come together, if you have pizza dough in the freezer or pick it up from your supermarket. Keep vegetables in the freezer for a quick put together soup recipe. Supermarkets, today, carry diced onion, celery and peppers that make it easy to make soup in a short amount of time. Mushrooms are also available pre-sliced. Fresh refrigerated pasta is great for soup and cooks very quickly. It is easy to make substitutions, if you don’t have the exact ingredients listed in the recipes below.

souppizza1

MUSHROOM SOUP

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2  (14-ounce) cans beef broth
  • 1/3 cup sherry
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Heat a large soup pan on high heat and add the oil, onions and garlic; cover and cook 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms; cover and cook 5 minutes.

Combine in a large bowl, onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper and thyme, Whisking continuously, add beef broth, sherry and milk to the spice mixture.

Slowly whisk broth mixture into the mushroom mixture in the soup pan. Simmer uncovered 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix flour and water in a small bowl to form a creamy paste. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth from the soup pot in 1/4-cup increments, stirring after each addition, to make a thin paste.

Add to the soup, slowly while whisking continuously. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.

souppizza2

SAUSAGE AND PEPPER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup homemade or store-bought pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and add oil and sausage. Brown 5–6 minutes, stirring to crumble sausage, or until no pink remains. Let stand 2–3 minutes to cool.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Top crust with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions and sausage. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 18–25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until crust is golden, cheese is melted and toppings are thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

souppizza3

TOMATO GNOCCHI FLORENTINE SOUP

Ingredients

4 large tomatoes

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (4 oz)
  • 2 ½ cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 (14-oz) can vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (16-oz) package gnocchi pasta

Directions

Cut tomatoes in half; remove seeds and chop coarsely.

Chop spinach coarsely; set aside.

Combine crushed tomatoes, broth and butter in large saucepan; bring to a boil on medium-high. Stir in fresh chopped tomatoes, dill weed, salt and pepper; return to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium; cook and stir 12-15 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.

Puree soup using a stick blender. Stir in gnocchi and spinach; cook 3 more minutes or until spinach wilts. Serve.

souppizza4

CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets, (or frozen florets, defrosted)
  • 2 cups roasted chicken (10 oz)
  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray for the pan

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Place oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 425ºF.

Cut broccoli into bite-size pieces. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Mix the ricotta with the basil, oregano and garlic salt and spread it evenly over the crust to within 1/2 inch of edge.

Evenly distribute the chicken and broccoli over the ricotta.

Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over pizza;

Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice and serve.

souppastaedamame

POTATO EDAMAME SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-oz) bag frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (32-oz) box reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Thaw edamame in a colander under cool running water just until the beans separate.

Melt butter in large saucepan on medium-high. Add onions, potatoes and garlic; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until onions begin to soften.

Stir in Italian seasoning, salt and chicken broth, then cover; cook, stirring occasionally 10 minutes.

Stir in edamame, then cover; cook 10-15 more minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Mash lightly to thicken the soup a little. Serve.

souppizza6

BURGER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 8 large slices Swiss cheese, broken into large pieces
  • 12 oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb fresh pizza dough
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 packet dry beef bouillon
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour  Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and place 1 tablespoon oil in the pan. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes or until tender. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the saute pan and add the onions; cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until soft and golden. Add meat to the pan; brown 4-5 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat until no pink remains. Add the bouillon, Worcestershire and 1/2 cup water; simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked mushrooms.

Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into a lightly greased pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Spread ricotta evenly over the dough and spread the meat/mushroom mixture over the ricotta. Place pieces of cheese evenly on top of the meat mixture. Bake 18-25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes; slice and serve.

souppastacorn

CORN CHEDDAR CHOWDER

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of each: diced onions, diced red/green peppers and diced celery
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seafood seasoning blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag of frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan on high and place bacon in the saucepan. Cook until crisp, stirring frequently.

Add onions, peppers and celery and cook until softened. Add seafood seasoning and black pepper.

Stir corn and hash brown potatoes into the bacon vegetable mixture.. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk flour, water, milk and broth in a bowl or large measuring cup until smooth.

Add flour mixture slowly to the chowder, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cheese, stir until melted and serve with additional cheese, if desired.

souppizza8

SEAFOOD PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • 6 ounces crab meat
  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 6 fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven 450°F. Spread pizza dough on a greased pizza pan.

Combine ricotta and pesto in a small bowl until blended and spread evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Dice roasted red peppers. Cut crab meat into bite-size pieces.

Arrange shrimp, crab, peppers and mushrooms evenly over pizza. Top with remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese and 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning.

Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Slice basil leaves into very thin strips. Sprinkle over pizza and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

souppizza9

TORTELLINI SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 14 ounces water (1 can)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup each of diced onions, carrots and celery
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated three-cheese tortellini
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan and add sausage and garlic. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until brown and no pink remains. Add diced vegetables, italian seasoning and cook until softened.

Stir in chicken broth, water, tomatoes and chili. Cover and bring to boil. Once soup boils, reduce heat to low. Simmer 7-10 minutes. Increase heat to high and add tortellini to boiling soup; cover and cook 5 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

souppizza10

PIZZA BAGUETTE

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh spinach (loosely packed)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced thinly
  • 1 Italian baguette
  • Olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons pesto sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, drained and sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 teaspoons feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Add spinach and water to a microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Cut bread in half lengthwise, then into fourths and brush lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet.

Spread each with 1 teaspoon pesto sauce.

Top each piece of bread with ¼ of the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, red pepper slices and olives.

Sprinkle each with seasoned salt and Italian seasoning.

Place in the oven and bake for 9-10 minutes.


glutenfree

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.

When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products containing gluten, the response from their immune system damages the tiny, fingerlike protrusions lining the small intestine, called villi. Properly working villi allow nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream. When villi are damaged, vital nutrients go unabsorbed. When people first get diagnosed with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, one of the things they mourn most is having to give up “regular” wheat-based pasta.

Gluten -free Flours

Gluten-free Flours

Gluten-free pastas are made from corn, brown rice, quinoa and some brands offer a mixture of gluten-free ingredients. Barilla and Ronzoni offer gluten-free products. An Italian made brand, Jovial, was rated best by America’s Test Kitchen and Food & Wine magazine. You might want to see if it is available in your area.

Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that you would not expect to find it in, for example:

  • Energy bars/granola bars – some bars may contain wheat as an ingredient, and most use oats that are not gluten-free
  • French fries – be careful of batter containing wheat flour or cross-contamination from fryers
  • Potato chips – some potato chip seasonings may contain malt vinegar or wheat starch
  • Processed lunch meats
  • Candy and candy bars
  • Soup – pay special attention to cream-based soups, which have flour as a thickener. Many soups also contain barley
  • Multi-grain or “artisan” tortilla chips or tortillas that are not entirely corn-based may contain a wheat-based ingredient
  • Salad dressings and marinades – may contain malt vinegar, soy sauce, flour
  • Starch or dextrin, if found in meat or a poultry product, could be from any grain, including wheat
  • Brown rice syrup – may be made with barley enzymes
  • Meat substitutes made with seitan (wheat gluten) such as vegetarian burgers, vegetarian sausage, imitation bacon, imitation seafood (Note: tofu is gluten-free, but be cautious of soy sauce marinades and cross-contamination when eating out, especially when the tofu is fried)
  • Soy sauce (however, tamari made without wheat is gluten-free)
  • Self-basting poultry
  • Pre-seasoned meats
  • Cheesecake filling – some recipes include wheat flour
  • Eggs served at restaurants – some restaurants put pancake batter in their scrambled eggs and omelets, but on their own, eggs are naturally gluten-free
  • Beer, ales, lagers, malt beverages and malt vinegars that are made from gluten-containing grains are not distilled and therefore are not gluten-free. There are gluten-free products available.

glutenfree3

Gluten-free Italian Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 dash red (hot) pepper sauce, as desired, to taste
  • 1½ tablespoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed Rice Chex or gluten-free bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

In a mixing bowl, combine ground meat, salt, onion, garlic, onion powder, basil, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, hot pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce and mix well.

Add the ricotta, Parmesan cheese and crushed Rice Chex. Mix until evenly blended, then form into 1½-inch meatballs and place on a baking sheet.

Bake until no longer pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Add them to your favorite pasta sauce.

glutenfree5

Gluten-free Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally
  • 3/4 cup of potato flour, rice flour, cornstarch or general all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 3/4 cup crushed Rice Chex or gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups homemade or storebought marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh, cut into 6 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Combine breadcrumbs and grated cheese in a shallow bowl.

Combine the spices (salt to thyme) in a small bowl and mix.

Heat the broiler.

On the stove, warm the tomato sauce in a saucepan.

Over another burner, heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Don’t let it get smoky.

Season both sides of the cutlets with the spice mix.

Dredge cutlets in gluten-free flour of choice.

Then dip cutlets in the beaten egg and then dredge in the breadcrumb and cheese mixture, turning to coat both sides. Place cutlets on a plate.

Place 3 cutlets in the heated skillet; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Using a spatula, transfer browned cutlets to a baking pan.

Cook the remaining cutlets and place them in the baking pan.

Top each cutlet with a slice of mozzarella. Broil the cutlets about 4 inches from the heat source until the cheese is melted and lightly browned in spots, 4 to 5 minutes.

To serve: put some warm sauce on each serving plate and top each with a cutlet. If you prefer, you can pour the sauce over the chicken.

glutenfree2

Gluten-free Lasagna

Makes 1 – 9×13 inch pan

Ingredients

  • 1 package gluten-free lasagna noodles (8 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 pound Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced Italian tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 ounce)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1¼ pounds shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In boiling salted water, cook lasagna noodles to a firm al dente, according to instructions. Remember that the noodles will cook more in the oven later, so do not overcook them.

Place the cooked noodles on clean kitchen towels to prevent them from sticking to each other.

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, ricotta, Romano cheese, salt, black pepper and half of the mozzarella cheese. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the sauce:

Heat a large skillet to medium-high, add oil and cook the onions until soft.

Add sausage, ground beef and garlic and cook until the meat is crumbly and evenly browned. Drain off excess fat.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, basil and oregano.

Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread a thin layer of the cooked sauce evenly over the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch baking pan. layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the remaining cooked sauce and 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Repeat this layering 2 more times.

Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of the lasagna.

Bake about 30 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and golden brown.

glutenfree1

Cheese Stuffed Polenta with Sausage

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 cup quick cooking Polenta
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded provolone cheese
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves

Directions

Coat a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with olive oil.

Bring the chicken broth to a rapid boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat. Add the polenta, pouring slowly and stirring until mixture is thickened, about 1 minute. Mix in butter and Parmesan cheese until fully incorporated.

Pour 1/2 of the cooked polenta into the greased baking dish. Gently spread the polenta to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle evenly with the shredded cheeses. Pour the remaining polenta over the cheese and spread to the edges of the pan. Allow polenta to cool, then cover and chill for about 2 hours or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

In a skillet brown the sausage and add the marinara sauce. Cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Once ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Bake the chilled polenta uncovered for about 30 minutes, until it begins to brown. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Cut into squares and serve warm topped with the sausage sauce, grated Parmesan and fresh chopped basil leaves.

glutenfree4

Shrimp Scampi Over Linguine

Yield:4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup dry white vermouth
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 pound gluten-free linguine (quinoa pasta works very well in this recipe)

Directions

Cook the gluten-free linguine according to package instructions. Drain and place in a large pasta serving bowl.

Put the shrimp on a large plate and pat them completely dry with a paper towel. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil to the skillet. When the foaming subsides, raise the heat and add the shrimp. Cook the shrimp, without moving them, for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Turn the shrimp over and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer the shrimp to the bowl with the pasta.

Return the skillet to the heat and pour in the vermouth and lemon juice. Boil the liquid until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir the zest and parsley into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and toss to combine with the pasta.

"The gluten is free. The pizza, however, cost $12.95."


Tuscany4

Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on culture. Tuscany is unrivaled as the center of art. One can find examples of every age and style: from the Etruscan civilization to Roman monuments and ruins; from the Romanesque architecture and impressive Gothic cathedrals to the exceptional artistic explosion of the Renaissance. Florence has preserved its masterpieces and great works of architecture over the centuries.

Tuscany borders the regions of Liguria to the northwest, Emilia-Romagna to the north and east, Umbria to the east and Lazio to the southeast. Tuscany has a western coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea, containing the Tuscan Archipelago, of which the largest island is Elba. The climate is fairly mild in the coastal areas, but much harsher and rainier in the interior, with considerable fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer.

Tuscany

Florence is the capital of Tuscany. Other important cities are Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, Pistoia, Prato, Lucca, Livorno, Grosseto and Massa Carrara.

The most important collection of paintings in the world is found in the Uffizi Gallery. Great paintings can be seen in the Gallery of Palazzo Pitti, such as Tiziano’s and Raffaello’s masterpieces. Florence also has the Museum of the Costume, the Museum of the Carriages and the beautiful Italian gardens, Giardino di Boboli. In the Museum of the Opera del Duomo, the famous “Pietà” by Michelangelo can be admired.

The Via de' Tornabuoni in Florence, the city's top fashion and shopping street,

The Via de’ Tornabuoni in Florence, the city’s top fashion and shopping street.

The fashion and textile industry are the pillars of the Florentine economy. In the 15th century, Florentines were working with luxury textiles such as wool and silk. Today, the greatest designers in Europe utilize the textile industry in Tuscany, and especially Florence.

Tuscany6

Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made up of Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced and the region is known for its many excellent cured meats. Tuscany’s climate also provides ideal soil for the grapes grown to create the region’s world-renowned Chianti wine.

It is Carnival time in Tuscany

Tuscany1

It was February 1873 when a group sitting around a table at the Caffè del Casino in Viareggio had the great idea to have an annual parade of floats to celebrate carnival time. They wanted a parade out in the piazzas, in the streets and, most of all, among the people. The parade floats take center stage each year and usually represent satirical versions of politicians, figures from popular culture or show business. The floats are always based on the hot topics of the day. The floats parade through the crowds along Viareggio’s seafront every Sunday for 4 weeks until Mardi Gras. For 4 weeks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, the 4 districts of Viareggio hold large open air street parties with music and masked balls until the early hours. Open air restaurants offer local specialities, mainly fresh seafood dishes, and stages are put up on street corners where free live concerts are performed. Bands and DJs give it their all, dressed in costumes and wearing carnival masks.

Tuscany2

Cenci’ are traditional sweets that are often prepared throughout Tuscany during Carnival time. These treats are made with fried dough and covered with powdered sugar. In Italian, their name means ‘rags’ because that’s exactly what these haphazard squares look like! They’re golden, crispy, light and easy to prepare.

Take A Tour Of Tuscany

Traditional Tuscan Regional Cooking 

Soups, sauces and stews are the cornerstones of Tuscan cooking, many beginning with and relying upon the mastery of a soffritto on which to build more complex flavors. A soffritto can be considered the Italian verson of mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that creates a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto as needed to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.

Stracotto (braised beef) is a well-known favorite of the area, as are finocchiona (a rustic salami with fennel seeds), cacciucco (a delicate fish stew), pollo al mattone (chicken roasted under heated bricks) and biscotti di prato (hard almond cookies made for dipping in the local dessert wine, vin santo). Borlotti beans, kidney-shaped and pink-speckled, provide a savory flavor to meatless dishes and cannellini beans form the basis for many a pot of slowly simmered soup. Breads are many and varied in Tuscan baking, with varieties including, donzelle (a bread fried in olive oil), filone (an unsalted traditional Tuscan bread) and the sweet schiacciata con l’uva  with grapes and sugar on top. Pastas are not heavily relied upon in Tuscan cooking and pappardelle (a wide egg noodle) is one of the region’s few traditional cuts.

Tuscany9

Tuscan Bread

This is a three-day process.

Makes 2 Loaves

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 4 cups warm water (110 F)
  • 9 cups unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • Olive Oil
  • Semolina or cornmeal to flour the work board

Directions

To make the biga:

Combine the yeast and ½ cup of water in a bowl; stir and set aside. Measure 2 cups of the unbleached flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the center of the flour with your hands and pour in the yeast mixture. Move the flour from the sides of the bowl into the yeast mixture and combine. Gradually pour in 1 cup of water. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour and yeast mixture together to form a thick paste. Sprinkle another cup of the unbleached flour over the top and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in a cool place to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

The next day, add the whole wheat flour, 1 cup of warm water and another cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour to the bowl and mix, kneading the dough slightly in the bowl with your hands. The dough will be very sticky. Cover and set aside again to rise for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

On the third day, stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water. Work in the remaining flour, leaving a little of it aside to spread on the board or work surface. Turn the dough onto the floured surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes or until the dough is silky and springy and has lost its stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place the dough in a warm place (75 F) to rise for 2 to 3 hours.

It is best to bake the dough on a baking stone. To do this, preheat the oven stone at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes prior to baking the bread.
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, knead it briefly and divide in half. Form each into an oval or round loaf. Set the loaves on 2 oven peels lined with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with a clean towel and allow them to rise for 45 minutes while the oven is heating.

Transfer the loaves from the peel to the stone; if you only have one peel, form one at a time and set one on a piece of parchment paper.

Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking another 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles.

To bake the loaves without a stone, form the loaves as above and place each one on a lightly oiled and cornmeal lined baking sheet. Cover as above and let rise. Bake as above. Cool the bread on a rack before slicing.

Tuscany7

Ribollita

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cannellini beans, uncooked
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 4 potatoes, diced
  • 10 zucchini, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups swiss chard, shredded
  • 1 leek
  • 1 savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch kale, shredded
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Loaf of stale Tuscan bread

Directions

Soak the beans overnight and then cook over low heat. It will take approximately 1 hour for them to cook.

In a soup pot, gently saute the onion, carrot and celery in a little olive oil. Add the other vegetables, with the exception of the cabbage, kale and beans which are added at a later point. When the vegetables have sweated out their juice, cover the ingredients with hot water and then add all the cabbage and kale. Cover and simmer for an hour over medium heat.

Add the cooked beans, salt and pepper. Let simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently because the beans tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste.

Slice the stale bread and, in an earthenware casserole, alternate layers of bread with the soup until the bread is soaked. Cover and refrigerate the soup until the next day.

To serve, reheat it or “re-boil” it, as the name in Italian suggests.

Tuscany8

Lemon and Black Pepper Grilled Chicken Legs

Serves: 4 as a main course

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken legs with thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions

Arrange the chicken in a shallow bowl or baking dish. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the chicken on the grill and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes, turning once or twice. If using a gas grill reduce the heat to low and cook 20 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, move the chicken to the edges of the grill, cover and cook over indirect heat. Check for doneness after 20 minutes.

Tuscany5

Ricciarelli – Tuscan Almond Cookies

These cookies just happen to be gluten-free.

Makes about eighteen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Grind the almonds in a food processor until reduced to a semi-fine powder. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites on high-speed, adding the sugar a little at a time. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla.  Continue beating the whites until very thick and glossy, at least 5 minutes.

With a rubber spatula, fold in the ground almonds and orange zest.

Use 2 tablespoons to scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets.  The cookies should be oval-shaped, about 2-1/2 inches long x 1 inch wide.  Only put about 9 cookies on each baking sheet as they will spread a little. Dust the tops of the cookies with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch, but pale in color, not brown.

Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.  When completely cool, re-dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.



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